At the time, no one knew what was coming
For years I have tried to convince Paul to work collaboratively with me on a project, so when he agreed to do a his and hers reading map of 1Q84 I was elated. And then. I got stuck. I had no idea where to start. [Forgive me exalted librarians for I have sinned...] I haven’t read 1Q84 or any other books by Haruki Murakami. I haven’t even read any reviews and to make matters worse I’m not a fan of the mega-novel. I tend to favour psychological thrillers with a bit of Jodi Picoult, foodie fiction and airport paperbacks thrown in for variety. Not exactly the same league in reading preferences is it? So what was my plan? (I am a project manager after all.)
It’s not something I can openly advise you to do
I thought about the easiest option. Could I do this project solely by reading reviews? Three volumes amassing 1100+ pages will take a significant amount of time to digest, and I’d rather not if I don’t have to. Do I need to read 1Q84 in order to do a reading map justice? Surely the plethora and diversity of online reviews would provide a well-rounded perspective that I could decipher for reading map clues. So I quickly scanned LibraryThing, GoodReads and Amazon and found the majority of book reviews enigmatic; often comparing 1Q84 to previous works by Haruki Murakami (not very helpful in my case). There were a number of references to themes such as magical realism (whatever that means), alienation and alternate realities that I could use to build a reading map, but would it be a true reflection of the book? Maybe. Or maybe not. I’d never know.
To cast further doubt on my proposed solution, I recalled a flurry of articles I had read last year on the proliferation of fake book reviews (here, here and here). Bugger. Relying solely on book reviews may be the easiest option and it might work for others or other books, but it is not something I’d be proud to put my name to. Plus how does this approach differentiate a librarian’s knowledge and expertise in readers’ advisory from that of an everyday reader or an algorithm?
Amused by the illusion of that which is never meant to be
So my next thought (whilst still avoiding the monumental tome) was that there must be some professional literature on how to keep up with collection knowledge and provide excellent reader’s advisory services without the need to read everything in the collection. And yes folks there is. The Readers’ Advisory Handbook (pdf) includes a chapter titled ‘How to read a book in ten minutes‘ by Jessica E. Moyer. Ten minutes! I’ll give that a go. Twenty minutes later I had worked through the eight step process and with practice I think it will be a very effective way to have some knowledge of the many titles in our collection. Here’s what I deduced about 1Q84 in 20 minutes.
Two characters – one a female assassin with a grudge against domestic violence offenders and the other a male ghostwriter and maths teacher – begin to notice that the world they live in is not quite as it seems. Chapters alternate between their different stories which are slowly drawn together like moths to a light.
Aimed at sophisticated intellectual readers who have eclectic reading interests and prefer detailed observations and reflections over fast-paced drama.
I think this brief overview would suffice as a 30-second plot summary and I could make some recommendations based on this (Steig Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and Keigo Higashano’s The Devotion of Suspect X spring to mind) but I don’t think it’s going to work for the deep dive that a reading map requires. What do you think? If you have read 1Q84, is this a fair reflection of the book?
So, it seems I’m all out of easy options. But I have figured out the best place to start when developing a reading map. The best place to start when developing a reading map is to read the book. *sigh*